Reboots and remakes have become exceptionally bountiful in the past few years, and that has been particularly true for film and tv. The most successful of the lot, however, have historically been reborn kids’ shows. For example, the recently ended TMNT cartoon was heavily praised, the recent Voltron, Ducktales, and She-Ra remakes have been hits, and trailers/rumors for reboots of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Teen Titans have been very well-received.
Teen/Young Adult stories have been getting more buzz in their remakes, though, as of late. With the success of Riverdale, properties like The Heathers and Charmed are getting new updates for the modern teen. The one that’s caused the most talk, however, is the dark remake of Sabrina Spellman’s teenage life: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
The original Sabrina The Teenage Witch aired in 1996 and lasted on the air for seven seasons. Melissa Joan Hart played the titular character, experiencing the funny, whacky adventures of teenagedom while learning all about being a witch. It was a 90’s classic that defined a generation.
Netflix has picked up a remake of the show, told now in a much darker light. This series’ stories are based off of an Archie Comics series of the same title. It plays up the satanic aspects of witch history and puts a serious focus on Sabrina’s reluctance to sell away her soul. The original series’ dilemmas seem pretty tame in comparison, don’t they?
The series is going to release on October 26th, poignantly right before Halloween, and has released a full-length trailer in preparation. Critical responses to it have been understandably mixed, but hopeful. While visually the series looks fascinating and Keirnan Shipka truly sells the role of Sabrina, fans know the premise of “X but darker” can sometimes work very poorly if not conceptualized well. Also, while being run by CW creators means its team is experienced, it also is being run by CW creators. The CW can be great for drama but is also known for completely overrunning plot, logic, and character consistency for the sake of that drama sometimes.
One of the most encouraging parts is the fact the series, as far as the trailer goes, still seems dedicated to Sabrina’s light hearted relationship with Harvey, the dark humor of her aunts, and the enjoyment she gets from her human life. If they can pull it off, it could be fascinating to watch Sabrina explore the dichotomy of enjoying normal, teenage life but also the darkness of being a witch.
Conversely, the heavy-handed aspects of the witches connection to satanism may end up being a little much. While horror fans may be able to look past it, the average teen drama viewer may struggle with the amounts of blood oaths, pentagrams, and satan going on. Though people have believed in the past that witches are brides of satan, and people in Sabrina’s life are trying to convince her to join the coven, the show may get too aggressive in its pursuit of Sabrina’s soul.
Regardless of how it goes, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is bold for trying to switch genres from its predecessor. Though comics always do this sort of “what if X character was in zombieland” kind of exploration, shows often don’t. They tend to stay tonally similar to what their predecessors are, if its a good idea or not. Great examples of this are Fuller House, the upcoming Charmed, and the Gilmore Girls revival. It’s almost telling that none of those quite went as swimmingly as planned, or are already being razed by fans before premiering.
Though moving away from Sabrina The Teenage Witch’s light humor and quirkiness, turning into a horror drama with dark humor might be to The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s benefit. After all, cartoon reboots/remakes have worked so well because of this tactic. It’s a way to tell the stories in a new way without having to create new characters, new personalities, etc. Changing the genre/tone can sometimes change enough about the story to keep the heart that fans love but create new adventures and situations that can keep the show exciting.
Personally, horror deserves more mainstream representation and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina seems like a perfect, offbeat way to explore the genre in new ways. There’s only a little bit of black magic and satanic covens in transit.